It seems that our building’s hallways were in need of new lights. We could see perfectly well while climbing the stairs, but perhaps not well enough for the city of New York because, without warning, a construction crew attacked the stairwell and hallways with sledgehammers to install new emergency light fixtures. There must be a new law that we are to be blinded upon leaving the apartment.
The work went on for days. Loudly. At one point it seemed that they would crash through the wall of our bathroom while one of us was in the shower. Holes were made in the walls of the hallway as you can see in this picture, to expose some sort of electrical wiring. Then, clumsily, the ugly new fixtures were attached to this wiring and hung, sloppily, all throughout the building. It is now possible to walk into our building and climb the sloping, crooked stairs and see it for what it really is: a dump. I liked it better when the lights were dimmer.
The workers installed these fixtures slowly, three guys to one fixture, one usually yelling at the others, or else yelling at the guys down on the other floors, and it seemed to take a very long time. I was on vacation at this point, and home during the day, and not happy.
Quiet for days. We assumed that, now that the lights were installed, the workers would come back to plug up their holes. The holes—like these pictured—run up the length of the walls, one hole down by the floor, one in the middle, one up top. A person could peek inside and see grotesque wires and deep dark spaces between the hallway and the apartment. A person could do that—if she weren’t afraid that a big rat would jump out.
Over a week has passed. I wonder if this is what our building will look like from now on: in garish spotlight, guts exposed. Still, there is something fascinating about these new holes. I don’t know how old our building is, but I like to imagine the people who lived in it before we were even born. What might these long-lost tenants have hidden inside the walls, thinking no one would ever discover? Every time I walk by and see the holes I am tempted—rat attacks excluded—to find out.